The following is a press release from the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York:
New York—Two days before the release of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Budget, prominent clergy and representatives of the city’s most active community groups, civil rights organizations, and unions urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to restore state funding for the City University of New York and invest in CUNY’s students, faculty and staff. The call came at news conference today outside Cuomo’s midtown office building.
According to the groups, CUNY is a lifeline of opportunity for working-class New Yorkers, immigrants and people of color, but Cuomo has refused to restore the 14% of State funding for CUNY’s four-year colleges lost since the 2008 recession. Instead, he has kept CUNY’s per-student funding essentially flat and supported tuition hikes that threaten college access for many low-income students. 25,000 CUNY faculty and staff represented by the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) have worked five years without a raise because of the governor’s failure to invest in CUNY.Without state investment in a new contract, CUNY has cut courses to save money, and academic departments have struggled to recruit and retain the best faculty for CUNY students.
“We call on Governor Cuomo to provide funds in his Executive Budget to ensure that CUNY students continue to have access to the top-quality faculty and staff they deserve,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the union of CUNY faculty and staff. “CUNY should be at the center of any plan for a progressive future for New York, but Governor Cuomo has missed the opportunity to allow CUNY to rebound; per-student funding for the four-year colleges remains very close to recession levels. A movement to rebuild CUNY is arising out of New York’s most spirited groups because CUNY represents many New Yorkers’ best chance to overcome the deep racialized gaps in opportunity and income that divide our city,” Bowen said.
With the state facing a $1 billion-dollar budget surplus, the groups who serve, mobilize and minister to a huge swath of the city’s students, parents and workers objected to the governor’s forced austerity for CUNY, which has led to cuts in courses and student support, annual tuition hikes, and a failure to resolve CUNY’s long-expired collective bargaining agreements.
Community and labor leaders together with clergy lined up to urge the governor to change course and make the investments that CUNY desperately needs.
“CUNY is the best vehicle working families in our city have to achieve social mobility. It is an institution that is key to our work and the fulfillment of our mission of empowering Latino families and communities. To ensure that CUNY remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for working New Yorkers, the state’s promise and investment in CUNY must be reinvigorated.We call on Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to ensure that CUNY has the funding it was promised and needs to carry out its essential role in our city,” said José Calderón, president, Hispanic Federation.
“The state budget is a statement of priorities and values. CUNY is a jewel that provides a path to upward mobility for thousands of New Yorkers. The governor’s leadership would ensure the resources CUNY desperately needs to maintain its high level of educational excellence. CUNY cannot continue to be a lifeline for working-class New Yorkers if it cannot invest in support for faculty and staff, including some 10,000 DC 37 members who make higher learning possible by providing students with a modern, world-class educational environment,” said Henry Garrido,executive director, DC 37.
“PSC’s fight is our fight. It’s a fight for fairness that resonates with every single NYSUT member who has gone even one day without a new contract or feels disrespected by an employer. NYSUT’s officers and every one of NYSUT’s more than 600,000 members stand in solidarity with the PSC in its fight to end six years of hardship with a contract that recognizes the exceptional work they do on behalf of CUNY students,” said Karen Magee, president, NYSUT.
“CUNY faculty and staff have worked five long years without a contract, and during that time, they have continued to provide exceptional service and instruction to students. CUNY schools are an integral part of the fabric of New York City, and they have educated a number of our city’s best and brightest minds.The New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO stands with PSC-CUNY in calling on the state to make a real investment in CUNY’s future by working to reach a fair contract, and ensuring that CUNY has the funds needed to continue to attract and retain world class instructors and staff,” said Vincent Alvarez, president, New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
“Young men and women need access to quality education and many of them rely on the City University of New York (CUNY) as an affordable option. The dedicated members of the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY have been working under an expired contract for five long years, which is far too long. The best way to continue providing quality education is by giving the dedicated faculty and staff at CUNY the fair contract they deserve,” said Mario Cilento, president, New York State AFL-CIO.
“For New York’s working families, access to an affordable, quality higher education at CUNY has long held the promise of a better and brighter future and opportunity for future generations. That promise is in danger of being abandoned for CUNY’s student population of a half million, which is majority low-income and students of color. If we are going to build a city and state that works for all of us, full restoration of funding for CUNYis an absolute must. We call on Governor Cuomo to keep his promise to make New York the progressive capital of the nation by restoring full funding to CUNY in the Executive Budget this year and providing a fair contract for all CUNY employees,” said Bill Lipton, state director, New York Working Families Party.
“CUNY is home to so many low income youth of color pursuing their education and their dreams. Investing in CUNY is investing in the future of NYC. It’s the right thing to do,” said Justin Rosado, Make the Road New York, Borough of Manhattan Community College student.
“Investment in CUNY is of utmost importance. The fiscal crisis has hit working-class New Yorkers and communities of color the hardest, families that are already struggling to meet rising tuition cost. Investing in CUNY is investing in a future for working families in New York City,” saidJonathan Westin, director, New York Communities for Change.
“ALIGN urges Governor Cuomo to increase funding for CUNY, a critical institution that plays a pivotal role in educating and providing opportunities for New Yorkers, especially immigrants and people of color. With income and racial inequality on the rise, New York should be investing in CUNY and in the CUNY faculty and staff whom have never wavered on their commitment to providing quality public higher education. Investment in CUNY is an investment in New York State,” said Brigid Flaherty, organizing director of ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York.
“Citizen Action of New York joins PSC in calling on Governor Cuomo to fully fund CUNY so that every student in NYC has access to a quality college education. Funding for CUNY is a critical step toward reducing inequality, especially for students of color,” said Karen Scharff, executive director, Citizen Action of NY.
“Every faith tradition calls for the instruction of youth, the education of the coming generation—this is held as a basic religious responsibility, a sacred trust. To make this possible institutions of higher learning—with CUNY being a prime example—need adequate support and resourcing from state government. Leaders from the faith community call for a restoration of full funding for CUNY, for tuition support and for fair salaries for the educators,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg, executive director, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition.
“As a high school student in New York City, I believe it is important that CUNY provides us all with an affordable and high quality education because so many of us don’t have any other options for pursuing higher education,” said Kenny Jawnson, Urban Youth Collaborative.
“Everyone agrees that education is the key to overcoming poverty. Yet, as poverty soars in New York, our governor continues to turn his back on students and their families. Governor Cuomo has consistently failed to keep his promises. He has only provided Pre-K for some, and is still not meeting his promise to fully fund CFE [The Campaign for Fiscal Equity]. He has even reneged on his promise to increase state aid to CUNY and SUNY when tuition increased. It’s time Governor Cuomo stands up for kids and fully supports learning opportunities for children from birth to college so they can have the tools they need to succeed and overcome poverty,” said Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director, Alliance for Quality Education.
“New York State has been gradually starving CUNY for far too long. This year, we should finally turn that around and make sure the state budget includes adequate funding to ensure an affordable, quality education for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who rely on CUNY. Those students work hard and aim high; the governor and state legislature should do no less,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, senior fellow, Fiscal Policy Institute.
“To be a progressive leader, you’ve got to fight inequality with fair-share taxes and strong investments in higher education—and when it comes to CUNY, it’s time for Governor Cuomo to lead.We can fight poverty, build economic prosperity and invest in our future by closing loopholes that let hedge funds and billionaires pay lower taxes than teachers and truck drivers, and investing new resources in CUNY professors, staff and students,” said Charles Khan, organizing director, Strong Economy for All Coalition.
“We’ve heard from students from across the state and the message is clear: freeze tuition and invest in higher education. Tuition hikes were supposed to go to improve our education, but many costs were not covered and stagnant state support did not keep up with inflation. Students are here today to urge the governor to turn the state’s rhetoric into reality by really maintaining support for higher education,” said Alex Bornemisza, chairperson, NYPIRG.
“CUNY’s student leaders will be closely watching the governor’s state of the state and budget address. We have paid our share over the past five years through tuition increases, and now we are asking for investment that we have rightly earned. Thousands of students have signed our petitions calling for more state funding for CUNY so that tuition can be frozen at its current rates and faculty and staff contracts can be resolved fairly. We will make sure students’ voices are heard loud and clear in Albany this year.”said Chika Onyejiukwa, vice chair for legislative affairs, CUNY University Student Senate, president, Undergraduate Student Government, Hunter College.
“City-wide, only 22 percent of African American and 16 percent of Hispanic adults have a bachelor’s degree compared to 57 percent of their white counterparts. Additionally, postsecondary outcomes for low-income youth lag way behind their upper-income peers. If the governor is serious about upward economic mobility for low-income students of color, then he should expand and modernize the Tuition Assistance Program as well as invest in CUNY by restoring per-student funding to pre-recession levels to lower tuition and fund contracts that pay CUNY’s faculty and staff salaries that support their important work,” said Kevin Stump, northeast director, Young Invincibles.